Inquest rules death of Bedford man Karl Brunner was accidental

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An inquest into the death of Karl Brunner, who died after swallowing drugs following his arrest in Midland Road, Bedford, has ruled his death was accidental.

Mr Brunner, 48, of Clarendon Road, Bedford, died on May 11, 2016. He had tried to swallow a package of drugs after plain-clothed officers arrested him during a day of action to tackle drug dealing in Bedfordshire.

The inquest jury accepted the evidence of pathologist Dr Biedryzcki to record the injury causing death as: “Foreign body airway obstruction (choking) with close temporal relationship to an attempted police arrest whilst under the influence of heroin and diazepam”, and ruled that his death should be recorded as accidental.

Following Mr Brunner’s death the matter was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) – now Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC). Three officers were initially served with Gross Misconduct notices, but the IOPC concluded they had no case to answer.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Lay said: “This was obviously a distressing incident for all involved and our thoughts are with the family and friends of Karl Brunner at this very difficult time. It was also a harrowing ordeal for the officers and the impact of Mr Brunner’s death on them and their families should be recognised.

“This was a complex, fast-moving set of circumstances. The safety of those in our care is always paramount and the officers reacted quickly when Mr Brunner became unresponsive and did all they could to try to save his life.

“Following his death, the matter was immediately referred to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC), as is standard practice; however they found there was no case to answer against the officers following a detailed investigation.

“While neither the IOPC, nor the inquest jury were critical of the police actions, we will always seek opportunities to review if lessons can be learnt and have already issued updated guidance to officers following recommendations from the IOPC investigation. Following this inquest we will look at whether there are any aspects of officer training which can be improved

“We hope Mr Brunner’s sad death will act as a stark warning to others of the dangers of swallowing drugs in a bid to conceal them from police officers. The sad reality is that, if he had not tried to swallow the package of drugs, this terrible event could have been avoided.

“We would like to thank the family of Mr Brunner for their patience while the circumstances around his death were investigated and express our deepest sympathies to them at this sad time.”